Monday, September 14, 2009

Preservation of the soul


Preserving is undoubtedly one of those soothing kitchen activities, guaranteed to absorb, relax and satisfy. This weekend I found myself suddenly ready to admit to the presence of autumn and say goodbye to summer. This weekend saw a Saturday filled with glorious golden September sunshine which permitted lunch to be eaten comfortably outside, followed by a cloudier, sharper sort of Sunday. In fact Sunday was The Technical Advisor's birthday and we ate his chosen lunch of roast beef indoors, feeling grateful for his very suitable choice. That evening we embraced the first log fire of the year which sent me promptly to sleep of course.

So this September Monday morning I awoke knowing that it really was autumn, I reached for a jacket as I headed out the door and my mind is filling with thoughts of scarf knitting. There are very flowers left in the garden and it is taking on a definite golden, reddish haze as the leaves begin to turn. I set to work on the damson tree as soon as I returned from the school run, its branches are heavily laden with damsons, ripe and ready.


I love preservation, I first dipped my toe into world of boiling sugar and crinkle tests a few years ago and now know it to be one of those domestic activities that will leave you feeling smugly delighted with yourself. There is nothing quite like the sight of your hard work presented in a neatly labelled row of jars on the pantry shelf.


There have been plenty of errors along the way of course. This summer saw a bush of glorious red currants reduced to a solid, slightly caramelised tasting (that is, if you can actually get a spoon in to taste) wedge of something but the batch of rhubarb relish made at the same time happily made me forget all about the nasty red currant incident.

Today's damsons have been pricked and soaked in gin and sugar. The pricking of so many damsons might sound like a tedious business but in fact nothing could be further than the truth, it was a pleasing, absorbing activity, I enjoyed the repetitive rhythm whilst half listening to Woman's Hour in the background.


Once that batch of damsons was safely under cover of gin I set to work on weighing sugar and sorting out jam pots and lids. There is nothing like a bit of boiling sugar to take ones mind of whatever there might be to worry about, the watching, the freezing saucer, the frequent testing for a set; such a wonderful autumnal way to spend a morning.


Tomorrow I set to work on a another batch of damsons, this time destined for my favourite preservation activity of all, chutney. The chopping, the weighing, the long, slow cooking and the smell of those spices, oh the smell of those spices. I am almost hoping for a decent heavy downpour for to be snug in a spice filled kitchen while the rain batters against could be as good a feeling as anyone could wish for on a Tuesday morning in autumn.

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